The prospect of a two-state solution in Israel is drifting further away
The attacks are hard to prevent. The perpetrators are very young Palestinians and not members of terrorist groups. Their weapons are basic and the process of radicalisation, from violent idea to violent act, is completely unique.
BICOM research examining the Facebook pages of attackers revealed that initially they were fixated with false rumours that Israel was violating the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. Later, attackers were obsessed with avenging the death of martyrs who they believed had been executed by Israeli forces. Palestinian media and Hamas repeatedly lied that Palestinians, who had been killed as they launched attacks against Israelis, were in fact being executed. The Palestinian President Abbas even repeated the charge, citing the case of a young boy whom he said had been executed, but who was alive and being treated in an Israeli hospital. Palestinian groups have filled twitter feeds and Facebook pages with gruesome images and Antisemitic cartoons of Jews being stabbed.
The young Palestinians are exposed to this radicalising material not only on social media. When they interact with the official institutions of their society, far from hate being challenged, it is reinforced. At school, terrorists are treated as heroes. In the media they are told the attacks are glorious feats. Just this week, official Palestinian TV described the Jaffa attacker as a martyr carrying out a complex operation. PA salaries are paid to convicted terrorists. Palestinian President Abbas never condemns the attacks or suggests that perhaps his people should stop trying to kill Israelis. Instead he echoes the prevailing narrative. Just last week he was reported to have sent a condolence letter to a recent attacker’s family. And the really bad news is that it’s likely that UK aid money supports all this reprehensible activity.
Critics of Israel say that these young Palestinians are frustrated and the absence of a peace deal has increased humiliation. But clearly something else is also going on. They are launching these attacks because the prevailing moral code is signalling that it’s a highly honourable thing to do. As for Abbas, some say he lacks power and legitimacy. Nonsense. Every leader has a choice and Abbas and his ministers chose to ride the wave rather than challenge it. Every time he praises a martyr, the deal that we all want to see, one that establishes a Palestinian state alongside Israel, will drift further into the distance.
The Israeli response to these attacks has been measured. Of the 256 attackers, more have been arrested than killed in self-defence. For all the criticism of Bibi Netanyahu, he has implemented small measures to bolster security without launching wider crackdowns and issued 30,000 extra work permits for Palestinians to work in Israel. He has offered several times to meet with President Abbas to continue negotiations without preconditions. They should meet soon. Whether they will have anything to talk about is sadly another matter.
James Sorene is CEO of BICOM, an independent British research centre producing analysis, insight and commentary to promote a greater understanding of Israel and the Middle East in the UK